“Where The F… is 34 Union Street?”, I asked myself out loud as I walked along Union Street, South Lismore, a street I’ve walked on many, many times. Although family members have lived on Union Street since the 1930s, I never once imagined there was a #34. Indeed, all of the numbers I’ve ever seen have been odd numbers, right up to, and past the Railway Station. So I looked it up on Google Maps, and I still couldn’t make sense of where it was. I headed towards the Railway Station and started walking randomly through the bushland which separates Union Street from the river. Finally, I gave up, and decided I’d try another tack. “Maybe it’s near where Hurford’s used to be?”, I thought to myself, never having previously realised that was Union Street, South Lismore also.
Anyway, after undertaking my cross country adventure, I found myself in a gallery playing host to an exhibition of photographs associated with Tropical Fruits, the Lismore-based gay and lesbian group which supports the local community, and puts on a cracker NYE party which attracts people from all over Australia. In addition, they put on a pool party at the Lismore Baths, and a street parade from what was once a gay pub (The Winsome) to the Lismore City Hall.
While many of the photographs focus on the NYE celebrations, there are also some lovely photographs of gay life on the North Coast, and there’s one whole room of male nudes. Prints are for sale, and I’ll pop back before I leave to pick up one, probably two, to take back home to Sydney with me. I particularly like the photographs of Maude Boate (who I remember as Michael Gates) who was raised here (his dad was the mayor for a while), went away to Sydney, and who returned about a decade or so ago, and who was the subject of an exhibition at the Regional Gallery, which I blogged about earlier this year.
Lismore’s former Mayor, Jenny Dowell, was there for tonight’s opening, as was former 2LM radio announcer, Nora Vidler, both sharing ancedotes of previous involvement in Tropical Fruits. Growing up and wanting to work in radio, I was in awe of Nora, as she was the Morning Show presenter, while I was just the 15 year old phone boy answering the Saturday night request line for the likes of Lynton Pratt, Graeme Stuart and Richard Mercer (who went on to become the legendary “Love God” of Sydney commercial radio). Though I tried to summon up the courage to say hello to Nora, even now, forty years later, having enjoyed my own career in radio, I’m still a little it in awe, I must admit. The timid young gay boy from South Lismore lives!